“Fighting corruption is not just good governance, it’s self-defense. It’s patriotism”—Joe Biden, former Vice-President of the United States.
One day, the poor will eat the rich. Literally. They will kill them, boil their meat with ginger and hot pepper, serve it with fufu and enjoy it with sobolo or Ginseng bitters. The poor are angry and they are getting angrier by the day. They look into the dark tunnel of inequality and cannot see a flicker of light. The tunnel becomes darker when they look at the opulence, impunity and corruption at the highest levels of politics and institutional governance. We have almost gotten used to waking up to hear another case of waste of public funds while people go to bed hungry yawning away generational curses.
Maritime special Jollof
Corruption is our greatest enemy. Our axis of evil are impunity, wickedness and greed. Folks here are living as though it is a punishment to be alive in their country of birth. They scrape the surface of hard places to eke a living or dig out the womb of the earth to avoid another day of hunger. Every day is a struggle through a minefield of adversity, pain, disease and troubles. You feel stupid being poor, especially when you know that we have a lot of aurum utalium and vast oil resources oil here. You feel you have not been accounted for, yet you count. When you are poor, it is as if the sky has fallen on you.
You feel stupid when you hear that 8 people spent GH10,000 on lunch. You wonder whether the Maritime jollof contains aurum utalium and other pricy minerals. Another GH135,000 had been blown on food for 200 people, including girlfriends and boyfriends of staff of the Ghana Maritime Authority at their end of year party. The same organisation had used GH1Million to renovate and expand a two-bedroom bungalow into a four-bedroom accommodation fit for the Director-General of the Authority. The facility has 11 air conditioners. Charitable. It should have been 13 to properly provide cool, purified air to every corner of the toilets.
Unfortunately, the facility doesn’t come with a swimming pool, wine bars, separate guest quarters for parties or the usual luxuries that naturally come with the big man’s house. The embattled Director-General, Kwame Owusu, deserves all the perks and privileges that come with high public office. He fiercely defends the expenditure with obnoxious arrogance. He thinks we are mediocre to spend less on a big man. We should think big, spend big, eat big and die proud. That is Kwame Owusu’s prognosis.
Rich man’s sickness
Kwame Owusu is alleged to have awarded building contracts to his closest relatives and sanctioned the spending of several thousands of public funds on food in his own hotel. The real problem with Kwame Owusu is the same ailment that has afflicted many self-made men and people of influence who feel superior to the average Ghanaian. Kwame was rich before getting into politics; he could build for himself a 4-bedroom mansion complete with all the luxuries of life, so nobody has the right to question his judgement.
The rich feel that the poor are too stupid to notice their flaws; they should gulp down their excesses because they are too rich to be wrong. Their refrains are: “Do you know who I am?”; “What have you achieved for yourself to question me?”; “Do you know the calibre of people I consort with?” The other day, a rich and influential man likened the poor to an insult. The presence of the poor is an insult to the rich. Kwame Owusu cannot submit himself to questions from a poor journalist. Who are you to question me?
The rich are entitled to two birthdays and two passports issued at two different locations. Here too, Kwame Owusu offers a fanciful explanation from the rooftops, arrogantly citing strange instances alien to natural citizenship and naturalisation laws. In other jurisdictions, this would be a criminal offence. If the American immigration system had given Kwame the name of an Asian woman in his passport, would he have kept the mistake because it is difficult to make changes to legal documents in the USA?
People who have lived abroad may not find Kwame’s explanations tenable. It may, in fact, be easier for Kwame to have corrected the mistake in his passport while in the USA. All he needed to do was to supply the necessary bonafides and proof of identification, and the mistake will be corrected in a few days. The system works. Over there, your passport is posted to your address; you don’t have to join long queues or pay bribes to unscrupulous and corrupt middlemen. Kwame could have saved himself this embarrassment.
Kwame Owusu’s sins are many; he has fallen short of the expectations of Ghanaians, particularly his archnemesis, A’ Plus, a popular and controversial musician, whom he suspects is behind the revelations. Kwame Owusu has abused his honour by dishonouring the rules of engagement and flouting all the cautions in Communication 101. How do we answer questions at a press conference? Must you necessarily meet the press to state a position? Is a press release sometimes a better option than a press conference?
Should he have pressed the mute button and ignore the flying allegations? Would his PR person have done better with the answers? Was the press conference necessary at all? Questions were begging for answers and somebody had to say something. Perhaps, Kwame said too much to bring the sky on himself. As a private man, Kwame has done well for himself but he has failed as a public officer. The rich too can fail.
PS: Is conflict of interest activated only when a procurement arrangement benefits a person in a position of trust? If the Director-General had been magnanimous enough to fete all 200 staff of the Maritime Authority in his own hotel for free, the narrative would have been different.